The Government has confirmed its intention to regulate the activities of private investigators from Autumn 2014 by requiring them to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority, meaning that it will be a criminal offence to undertake private investigations without a licence. Licences would only issued following satisfactory criminality and identity checks and competency-based training. It would also be a criminal offence to breach the conditions of a licence for private investigation, as per section 9(4) of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. However the Government has stopped short of the recommendation to make 'private investigator' a protected title. The new regulations would also not extend to legitimate investigations carried out by journalists.
The Home Affairs Select Committee had expressed concern about the number of investigations that are currently undertaken by the police which may fall to private investigators in the future due to cuts in police funding and invited the Government to set out its assessment of which policing roles could appropriately be undertaken by private investigators and which should not. The response from the Government is that decisions about engaging the private sector are matters for the locally elected Police and Crime Commissioners to take in conjunction with police constables, although it has gone as far as to state that there is no intention to allow private companies to carry out police activities which require warranted powers (except to the extent that this has already been achieved for detention and escort officers which has already been privatised).
The Home Affairs Select Committee recommended that consideration should be given to merging the three offices of the Information Commissioner, the Chief Surveillance Officer and the Inception of Communications Commissioner. The Government's response is that they already work closely together and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner and Intelligence Services Commissioner have also been involved as will the new Biometrics Commissioner, but that the functions of each commissioner are quite distinct and do not duplicate one another.
The Government was also invited to strengthen the penalties available for offences relating to the unlawful obtaining, disclosure and selling of personal data given that the current fine is typically £100. The Government has indicated that fines available to Magistrates for these offences will be unlimited in the future after commencement of Section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and it is the Government's intention to conduct a public consultation on matters including the introduction of custodial penalties.
The Home Affairs Select Committee expressed their concern about the risks of serving police officers being corrupted by conflicting interests and recommended a cooling off period of a minimum of one year between retirement from the police force and working in private investigation. The Leveson report also contained a recommendation to this effect in connection with employment in the media. The Government is considering this recommendation along with the recommendation that any contact between police officers and private investigators be recorded, and whether restrictions placed on the police should be extended to other agencies with covert or investigative powers and with the potential for contact with private investigators.